When it comes to entertainment media, whether it’s games or movies, I live for the big moments. Those points in which the entire experience comes together to produce a feeling of such rightness that it cannot be ignored. If I can look back over a year and remember many of these kinds of moments, I know it was a great year for entertainment. As 2017 faces its end, I can say without a doubt that this was one of the best years I’ve ever had.
In the spirit of the year’s end, I will be highlighting 20 of my absolute favorite moments and experiences from entertainment in 2017. This will include gaming, television, music, and films. This first post covers my six best experiences in gaming this year. Whether you’ve played these titles and want to share in another player’s perspective, or if you’ve yet to try them and want to know what there is to like, I hope you enjoy the list.
Note: this is a personal list of experiences and not an exhaustive list covering all of gaming. I didn’t play everything.
Breath of the Wild – The First Day
My first few hours with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild were some of the most ecstatic moments of pure entertainment I have encountered in any medium.
Exploring the gorgeous overworld is the heart and soul of the game, and from its first breathtaking landscape shot, Breath of the Wild continuously drives this selling point home throughout the early stages. You’re given only a slight hint of direction, and this brand new world seems full to bursting with endless choices. Will you scavenge for food and weapons? Explore the nearby temple? Brave the cold mountains? Pick a fight with the local baddies? These experiences and countless others are instantly available at the player’s whim.
Eventually, as with all games, you get a grasp of the limits of the game’s offerings and instinctively know what you should and shouldn’t do. But in those initial hours of newness and wonder, the captivating trial-and-error of survival mixed with the overwhelming sense of world scale produces a pure, joyous experience unlike anything else I have found in gaming.
This latest Zelda installment is far from perfect, but my first day with the game was pretty much just that.
Fire Emblem Echoes –The Final Battle
Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia deserved more recognition than it received this spring. An ambitious remake of an early-series game never released in North America, Echoes returns to focusing on a central storyline with predetermined character relationships, rather than the dating simulator atmosphere of more recent entries.
With challenging gameplay revisions, a rousing storyline, and impressively visceral voice acting, Echoes had fully captivated me by the time I reached the campaign’s finale. Then the characters reach the climax of their struggles, “Twilight of the Gods” kicks in, and a suitably epic final battle begins. This level’s theme is probably my favorite piece of music in gaming this year, and the battle itself does not disappoint. This conclusion to the latest Fire Emblem installment secured it as one of my absolute favorite games of 2017.
Shadow of War – Online Conquests
“Those fire archers on the outer walls are tearing apart my forces. They must be stopped! Looks like my captains have secured the inner command post. I should probably move in. Should I bring my bodyguard in now, or save him for the Overlord?”
When I first bought my own army of Uruks into another player’s Mordor and assaulted his fortress, I was instantly hooked. Middle-Earth: Shadow of War‘s conquest missions, online and otherwise, allow players to seamlessly incorporate both big-picture tactics and up-close combat into the gameplay at their leisure. Players cannot always succeed by simply hacking and slashing, but they also often cannot simply sit back and let their forces do all the work.
When Shadow of Mordor first introduced the Nemesis System, I dreamed of unifying the roles of commander and skirmisher. Finally, beautifully, satisfyingly, Shadow of War did it.
Super Mario Odyssey – New Donk City Festival
Warning: light Odyssey spoilers ahead
New games in longstanding series often throw in sections of callbacks just for the sake of callbacks. Sometimes, these nostalgia baits fall flat because they are unearned: the rest of the game does not successfully carry the player to the point of reminiscing. Not so with Odyssey.
Halfway through the game, players join the populace of New Donk City for a joyous celebration of Mario‘s origins. Two-dimensional Mario navigates a replica of the original Donkey Kong arcade game, all while Mayor Pauline belts out the undeniably fun “Jump Up, Super Star!”
This shameless throwback moment works because the game thus far has earned it. Odyssey is a fresh and imaginative joyride of new worlds, moves, and concepts, and it’s only right that the first half of the game would culminate in a more retro kind of joyride, one that reminds players everything that’s great about Mario. This festival wins the prize for producing my longest continuous smile of 2017.
Doki Doki Literature Club – All of it
I downloaded Doki Doki Literature Club on a whim one night because a friend recommended it, and hey: it was free. Five hours later, I lay curled into a ball on the floor, helpless.
I didn’t mean to play the entire game in one night, but I couldn’t look away. Part visual novel, part dating simulator (sort of), and part… something else, DDLC draws players in and annihilates their expectations without censorship or remorse. Saying much more would risk spoiling the unique experience the game has to offer. Just know this: no other game kept my thoughts and emotions as active and turbulent as Doki Doki Literature Club in 2017.
Breath of the Wild – Trial of the Sword
My Game of the Year pick earned the second entry in my year-in-review list with a much-needed piece of DLC.
As I said before, Breath of the Wild is at its best in the early game, when each situation is perilous and exciting. Sadly, Link can soon become overpowered due to his equipment, and the wonder is lost. Enter Trial of the Sword.
Included in the first DLC pack, Trial of the Sword strips Link of almost all weapons and equipment, effectively removing players from their comfort zone. Just like that, every choice, action, and the reaction has dire consequences once again. Through rooms and rooms of enemies and landscapes, Link fights, fighting to collect enough food and weapons to survive each new onslaught.
Trial of the Sword takes the best parts of Breath of the Wild and turns them into the most riveting hours of combat the game has to offer. Trucking through this challenge late at night with my friends on voice chat was definitely one of this year’s best gaming experiences for me.
There you have it: my six best moments of gaming in 2017. Did you have any similar experiences with these games? Were your opinions on these moments different? Let us know!
Come back soon for similar lists as I cover films, television, and music.
Some of Caleb’s earliest memories involve watching his father battle Ganon in A Link to the Past on the Super Nintendo. Since then, his love of gaming has steadily grown, along with a passion for the written word. When not playing games or writing, Caleb can be found watching Doctor Who reruns, finding Star Wars plot elements in everything, or loudly explaining the history of the Elves. They never let him finish…